In the earliest days of any industry, you can expect a lot of players trying to score a hit. With time the most successful survive, while the others… Well, we simply forget about them.
With that said, just because some companies fall out of the race, it doesn’t mean they had bad products. In fact, sometimes they might have the best offer, but still, get hit by the worst of chances. This is the nature of the business game. However, we should still keep such iconic inventions in our memory. That is what we are going to do today. Let’s explore one of the greatest sports cars in history – Mercer Type 35R!
The rise of Mercer Motor Cars
Back in the day cars used to look a lot different. With long, narrow builds they remind me of bullets. Frankly, in terms of aerodynamics, that was a pretty good choice. But what does this have to do with Mercer? A lot!
Though the founders had some experience with engineering and business, cars were new to them. Yet, they did something right: they turned to people who knew what they wanted out of a sports car.
Right from the get-go, Mercer started as a company that cared about delivering a great product. It worked with both designers and racecar drivers to perfect the invention. Thus in 1910, the Type 35R was born. And it proved an instant success.
What made the Mercer Model 35 Raceabout so special?
At first glance, the Type 35R looks a bit barebones. That is by design! With less weight and a strong engine, it could accelerate quickly and deliver superb top speeds for its time. We are talking about consistent 70 mph, with the option to go over 90 mph when pushed.
Obviously, by today’s standards that hardly seems passable. However, back then the Model 35 Raceabout managed to swipe away the competition on a consistent basis. Its 55 hp 4-cylinder engine, paired with the lightweight design, scored 5 out of 6 race victories in 1911. With time, success continued to pile up.
It became a highly coveted model for racers, but also as a luxury choice. That being said, it had such a steep price that having it as a personal car was kind of impossible. Not to mention that comfort was not its strong suit either. That didn’t matter though, because races were lucrative enough, and the Raceabout won a lot of them!
Though it might not exactly be among the cars that changed the world, it deserves a spot in the sports vehicles hall of fame. Perhaps it could have had a more serious impact if it wasn’t for a series of mishaps the company went through. Speaking of which…
How misfortune ruins a company
Sadly, Lady Fortune likes to deal with mean hands from time to time. Even if you do everything right, chance may just not be on your side. And as a company, Mercer had to deal with quite a few blows in a short period of time.
In 1912, the manufacturer lost its general manager in the Titanic disaster. Just two years later another big tragedy occurred. Two Model 35 Raceabouts collided, resulting in two lives lost. The sad event caused the company to reconsider and ultimately end its racing program. The very thing the model was built for – racing – became an afterthought. In turn, this prompted the lead Raceabout designer to leave the company.
New designs followed, which focused on luxury and turned the model into a touring vehicle. Did they succeed though? Hardly. They failed to impress the public and Mercer’s reputation slowly started to crumble.
The company did not take all those blows lightly. Its entire drive for innovation fizzled out and Mercer became reliant on past glory. In 1919, the last remaining founder passed away. The company was then bought off and restructured, but then got hit by the economic recession. In 1925, the last Mercer vehicle was built, making the total number reach somewhere around 5,000.
What is Mercer Model 35 Raceabout will be remembered for?
The model’s legacy has plenty of things you can admire. One of the least explored is its aesthetics. Tell me it doesn’t look cool! And yet… what exactly looks cool about it? It is a stripped-down version of some similar vehicles around that time. Perhaps this goes to show us once again that less is more.
Though the model was later fitted to be a more comfortable car, it ultimately failed at that. See, once they turned it into a regular old vehicle, it lost its charm. Now its touring models belong to the scores of classic cars you didn’t know existed. The lesson here? Having a good core product does not mean you can spin it off in any direction.
Another interesting fact is that a world record was scored specifically in this model. For a period of time, it held the record for the highest average speed (86.5 mph) during a road race.
Sadly, that was among Mercer’s last great achievements. With all the mishaps around it, the car could not be developed into something greater, and soon innovation passed it by. Now we remember it for being a one-off masterpiece that will forever remain a piece of American car-building history!